Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

New Regulations on CSO Activity – Everyone is a Potential Criminal

27 May 2015

The fundamental laws of the Republic of Azerbaijan "On Non-governmental Organizations (Public Associations and Foundations)" and "On Grants" were adopted in 2000; in 2013, essential additions and amendments were suggested – they came into force in February 2015 after the relevant decree was signed by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

On 17 December 2013, the Parliament of Azerbaijan made amendments, according to which the NGOs that are not registered by the Ministry of Justice lost their possibility to use grants. Today, the legislation obliges NGOs to inform state bodies every 90 days about  changes in their registry lists; new rules of checking NGOs activity are introduced and new kinds of infringements with corresponding large penalties for NGOs and their heads are established. Despite protests of about 40 non-governmental organizations, on 3 February 2014, the President Ilham Aliyev approved all these amendments.

In total, more than 50 amendments have been  introduced in the laws ‘On Non-governmental Organizations (Public Associations and Foundations) ", "On the State Registration and the State Register of Legal Entities", and «On Grants»  , as well as in the Code on Administrative Offenses

For example, an NGO can be assigned a fine for a minor technical error in its documentation or a delay of some days in submitting its report to the Ministry of Justice.

The Ministry of Justice is vested with powers to carry out regular checks of NGOs activity and even to involve other departments.

The changes also concern the registration of grants – non-registered NGOs have lost the right to receive grants.

The head of a non-registered NGO used to be able to receive grants as an individual and, as a taxpayer, they had to pay taxes on remuneration for completed work. Under the new regulations, individuals must also register grants at the Ministry of Justice. In addition, from now on non-registered NGOs are forbidden to use grants that are not registered at the Ministry of Justice. Thus, even if the head of a non-registered NGO registers a grant, the organization will not be able to use this grant.

The changes also concern international organizations, including branches and offices of foreign NGOs. Under the new regulations, they have to inform the Ministry of Justice about the composition of their regulatory bodies. Besides, legal representatives of foreign NGOs’ branches should, under the new rules, have permanent residence in Azerbaijan.

According to the new amendments, the activity of an NGO can be suspended. In particular, the activity of an NGO can be suspended under the pretext that it creates "obstacles for the liquidation of emergency situations’ consequences", that "it repeatedly fails to correct defects specified by the Ministry of Justice", or that "it infringes the rights of the NGO members".

Besides, excessive fines are introduced for NGOs. For similar types of infringements, NGOs will pay higher fines than companies.

Project funded by the European UnionEU